Organized Home

Halloween Candy Overload? Repurpose, Recycle and Reduce the Trick-or-Treat Haul!

Posted by Cynthia Ewer on October 30, 2015

Halloween night is coming ... and so is the morning of November 1st! For parents, that's the time when the excitement of Trick-or-Treat night gives way to post-Halloween reality: what to do with all that Halloween candy?

Whether they're worried about tooth decay and nutrition, or simply want to avoid the stress of a week of candy-fueled behavior from the little ones, smart parents put strategies in place to handle the Trick-or-Treat haul.

Check out these ideas to repurpose, recycle and reduce the amount of Halloween candy in your organized home from sister site Organized Christmas:

Halloween Candy Overload? Repurpose, Recycle and Reduce the Trick-or-Treat Haul!


Fall Back: Home Preparedness Checklist for Time Change Sunday

Autumn's here and it's time to Fall Back: Time Change Sunday is on the way!

On the first Sunday in November, we come to the end of Daylight Saving Time in most of the United States. With an extra hour in the day--and winter on the way--it's a good time for a seasonal home preparedness checklist!

As you circle the house, resetting clocks to Standard Time, make time for this short safety checklist. It'll see you into the winter from a safe--and organized--home:

  Read More >>Printables:  phone_emergency_information.pdf health_first_aid_kit_checklist.pdf

Ready for Christmas with the Christmas Countdown

Posted by Cynthia Ewer on October 21, 2015

Ready or not, here it comes: the 2015 Organized Christmas Countdown begins on Sunday, October 25.

This six-week holiday planning countdown from sister site is fun, it's free--and is designed to help you get ready for Christmas in good time for the celebration.

Led by author and organizing expert Cynthia Ewer, we'll work together to create a calm, stress-free holiday season for ourselves and our families. By breaking down Christmas preparations into small, easy-to-finish tasks, the Countdown will see us to the first weekend in December, prepared and ready for Christmas.

Beginning Sunday, we'll start the six-week Countdown. Week by week, we'll break down holiday prep into easy-to-complete checklists, build a printable Christmas planner, and read inspiring daily messages to keep us motivated and in tune with the holiday spirit.

To make it easy, keep up with the Countdown on Twitter or Facebook, or via our RSS feed.

Want to get Countdown updates in e-mail? Subscribe to Christmas Countdown by e-mail.

Ready to get organized for a great holiday season? Here we go! The 2015 Christmas Countdown starts on Sunday, October 25 ... see you there!

Ready for Christmas with the Christmas Countdown


Seasonal Clothing Declutter: Who's Living In Your Closet?

Once again, I mark the coming of autumn with a clothing closet declutter.

I wade into the closet and find the boxes of out-of-season clothing. Try everything on, skin itching at the touch of wool when the temperature's 80 degrees.

Sort the summer's keepers from items to donate. Look for "holes" and orphans in my autumn wardrobe. Count the upcoming dinners and holiday events, and divide them by the number of my party dresses. Try, for the 900th time, to locate some good transitional outfits: cool enough for warm autumn days, but not too summery or too bare.

A closet declutter is more a ritual celebration of the change of seasons. It's a time for reflection, a time to face up to changing identities. Who's living in your clothes closet?


Start Small: Sneak Up On Freezer Cooking

Posted by Cynthia Ewer on October 14, 2015

You've heard about bulk freezer cooking--an easy method of stockpiling prepared meals in the household freezer.

Commercial meal assembly franchises like Dream Dinners®, or Let’s Dish® have popularized the concept (at a cost), but smart home cooks know that feeding the freezer is an efficient way to feed the family. too.

Whether you know it as once-a-month cooking, freezer assets, OAMC or freezer cooking, the idea sounds intriguing. In a single day, freezer cooking lets you cook and freeze dinner entrees for a month--or more.

But the work! Loaded down with toddlers or balancing a full-time job, you can't imagine devoting two full days a month to shopping, preparing and cooking all those meals.

Take heart! Freezer cooking is not just for the energetic; it's possible to stock your freezer without the marathon sessions. Try these strategies to build your frozen assets bit by bit:

Soup-er Strategies

Soups and stews are simple-but-good dishes for freezer storage--and their forgiving nature makes them a logical first step for beginning freezer cooks.

Try these ideas to build your stock of soup possibilities:

  • Store the components, not the soup. Too often, frozen soups don't satisfy. Overcooked vegetables, gritty stock and stringy meat are a table turn-off. Instead of freezing completed soups, freeze components: a container of chicken broth, freezer bag of just-cooked chicken in single meal portions. To assemble, sauté onions, celery and carrots in a skillet, and add the freezer broth. Stir in leftover cooked rice. Add the meat, heat--and serve a soup that stands the test of time.
  • Just say "No!" to potatoes. Whether in soup, stew or casserole, frozen potatoes don't cut the mustard. Package freezer stew before adding potato. When you reheat, stir in cold, cubed, peeled baked potato from last night's dinner. Freezer friendly potato substitutes include barley and slightly undercooked pasta.
  • Store now, thicken later. Yes, you can freeze thickened stews, but do you want to? Cornstarch and flour-based gravies can separate after freezing, and never seem to have quite the right texture. Better, freeze the meal first and add thickening after thawing.
Magic Multiples

The concept is simple. When you do cook, cook multiple portions and freeze extra servings.

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Problem is, this method is a bit haphazard. Who hasn't known the virtuous feeling of cooking up a big pot of baked beans and tucking a container or two deep in the bowels of Moby Dick, the great white whale?

Where, sad to say, it remains. Months later, a freezer clean-out yields a variegated ice mountain of anonymous dribs and drabs.

Without labels, planning or portion control, the effort goes to waste.

Fine-tune your bulk cooking skills to avoid the hazards of mystery meat:

  • Plan multiple meals. Ground beef and Italian sausage on sale this week? By all means, buy extra for freezer meals--but make it a plan. Two pounds of beef and a pound of sausage will make four meals for your family? Great! That's what you buy, not a smidgen more. Too often, a weak "I'll freeze the extras" motivation leads to overbuying and waste; relying on a plan saves time and money.
  • Package the freezer meals first. Back to our hungry family, faced with a huge kettle of spaghetti sauce. Before you know it, your meat-loving teen has gutted the pot and put a serious dent in those planned-over meals. Instead, fill freezer containers before you serve the evening's meal. You'll have a tighter handle on portion control--and there will be no more scant cups of meatless sauce marooned inside the whale.
  • Freeze casseroles before cooking. Twice-cooked casseroles are nobody's friend. After dinner, who wants to scoop the leavings into freezer bags? Efficient multiple cooks build their lasagna in three single-meal containers and freeze two while the evening's dinner is in the oven.
  • Package properly. Ill-assorted margarine tubs and gaping plastic containers are for amateurs--and they won't protect your frozen assets. Invest in three or four same-sized oven-safe casserole dishes. Is it beef stew tonight? Spritz the dishes with pan spray, and line with a sheet of foil long enough to wrap completely around the food. Spray the foil, too, then ladle in the stew. Gently tuck the foil up over the food. Freeze overnight, then release the foil from the pan. Wrap, label and freeze in freezer bags. To use, pop a foil-wrapped entree into the casserole dish, thaw and re-heat. Simple!
  • Label, label, label! Our efficient once-a-month cook has assembled her labeling supplies before she begins. Casual freezer cooks often fudge the labels. Tuck a slip of paper with the multiple's name and cooking directions between the foil-wrapped entree and the freezer bag. Better, use a permanent marker pen to label freezer bags. A page of computer address labels tucked in the phone directory provides quick labeling help.
  • Track inventory. "Out of sight, out of mind" defeats many would-be freezer cooks--and nothing's better for inventory control than a whiteboard. Add three dinners' worth of macaroni and cheese to your freezer hoard? Write 'em in. Visiting family has you drawing heavily on your inventory? Erase each meal as you use it. A small magnet-mounted whiteboard can be placed on the freezer door to track freezer contents.
Super Six Freezer Plan

You're chafing at the bit, dreaming of making a big dent in nightly cooking chores. Still, you've got neither the time nor the money to invest in a whole month's worth of freezer meals at one time. What do you do?

Try the Super Six Freezer Plan. Once a week, you'll prepare the night's dinner plus six meals for the freezer.

Even eating one prepared meal a week, after six weeks you'll have a fully stocked once-a-month freezer--and missing a week here and there? No problem.

To stockpile meals under the Super Six Freezer Plan:

  • Make a plan. Using the supermarket sale flyers, identify one bargain protein. Are bone-in chicken breasts on sale for 99 cents? Good candidate! How about low-priced chuck roast? There's another. Choose your Super Six candidate according to your family's tastes.
  • Still sitting down with the sale flyers, identify two favorite recipes that can be made from your sale special. Chicken breasts yield Chicken Fajitas and Chicken-Biscuit Casserole. Chuck roast becomes Beef Bourgignon and Pot Roast. Check to make sure that you have other ingredients needed--if not, add them to the grocery list.
  • Schedule a Super Six cooking session. For two recipes, allow an extra hour in the kitchen that evening; three recipes may require more time.
  • Cook assembly-line fashion. For our chicken plan, we'll make 3 Mexican Chicken casseroles and four Fajita meals, one to be served that night.
  • Toss one-third of the bone-in breasts into a large steamer pot. As the meat cooks, bone the remaining breasts. Reserve the skin, bones and scraps.
  • Assemble Fajita marinade, and divide the boned breasts among 3 freezer bags and a glass bowl. Pour one-fourth of the marinade into each bag, and one-fourth into the bowl for the night's meal. Seal, label and freeze the Fajitas.
  • Cool the now-cooked chicken breasts and remove the meat. Mix the casserole sauce ingredients, and grate cheese and chop onions for the casseroles (reserve extra cheese and onions for the night's dinner). Using three foil-lined pans, assemble the casseroles, label, and freeze. Grill the evening's fajitas.
  • Dump the skin, bone and scraps right into the bottom of the steamer pot, add more water, and bring to a gentle simmer for chicken stock. Simmer very slowly for several hours or overnight, strain, and freeze. Your Super Six plan has given you a bonus--free homemade chicken stock!
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Using this concept for a month, you'll build frozen assets quickly--and easily. Adding freezer meals gradually is friendlier to the budget, too!

Total time: 90 minutes. Total freezer investment: six meals. Multiply by six weeks, and you've filled the freezer!

Trade Money for Time

Oh, no! I've scared you! Super Six sounds like too much work, and who's got time to package freezer meals each night at dinner?

Okay, fine. There's a work-free way to have the advantage of meals in the freezer: buy them.

You're going to trade money for time--but it's still faster and cheaper than five nights a week of take-out and/or fast food.

Try these sources for pre-prepared freezer meal candidates.

  • Scour warehouse stores and supermarket freezer sections for freezer meal candidates. Family-size lasagna is made to order, even if you do have to "plan over" the second half of the package for later in the week.
  • Think in terms of building blocks, not complete meals. Pre-cooked frozen meatballs can be tossed into spaghetti sauce from a jar. Cooked shrimp takes simple fried rice from a side dish to a light entree.
  • Try a Ewer family favorite: place meatballs in a medium saucepan, and add water just to cover. Stir in two or three teaspoons of beef soup base, bring to a boil, and simmer gently. Cook rice in a rice steamer as the meatballs simmer. Toss a salad. When the rice is ready, stir a tablespoon of cornstarch into a small amount of water, and add to the meatballs to thicken the sauce. Simple!
  • Other freezer-friendly meal components: bags of pre-cooked frozen shrimp; small bacon-wrapped filets of beef; pre-formed hamburger patties; flash-frozen chicken breasts.

Freezer convenience, home-cooked taste, and more free time? It's a winner! Give freezer cooking a try . . . one way or the other!


Fall Cleaning Chore Checklist

It's Autumn. Pumpkins glow in golden fields. Shorter days, crisp mornings signal winter's approach.

Can the holidays be far behind?

Use Autumn's brisk and breezy days to conquer deep-cleaning chores for a clean and comfortable winter home, and to wrap up summer's outdoor lifestyle.

Our Fall Cleaning Chore Checklist will help you prepare home and hearth for the coming of winter:

  Read More >>Printables:  calendar_checklist_fall_winter.pdf calendar_checklist_spring_summer.pdf

Prepare for Christmas Day by Day with!

Posted by Cynthia Ewer on September 14, 2015

Fall's in full swing, and the holidays will be here before you know it. Are you ready to prepare for Christmas?

Sister site Organized Christmas is pleased to introduce focus site, 101 Days to Christmas. Designed to bring you a daily dose of holiday motivation, 101 Days to Christmas offers daily messages via the Web, e-mail, and social networking.

By breaking down holiday preparations into small daily assignments, 101 Days to Christmas makes it easy to get ready for Christmas without working too hard! Use it as a stand-alone holiday motivator, or combine it with one of the dedicated holiday plans offered by Organized Christmas.

Remember, Christmas is only 81 days away! Will you be ready? Check out this new offering from our Web site network to get organized for the holiday season:

101 Days to Christmas

While you're there, get inspired to create a Christmas holiday planner with Christmas Planner! You'll find tours of creative Christmas planners from across the Web, links to free printable holiday planner forms, and directions to create your own powerhouse for Christmas organizing.

Ready for Christmas? Try A Holiday Organizing Plan!

Posted by Cynthia Ewer on August 25, 2015

Labor Day weekend ahead! School bells are ringing, football fills the airwaves and September looms. Will the holidays be far behind?

Sure, you're dreaming of the perfect Christmas--then you open your eyes to reality. Looking around the house, it's hard to imagine how to cut the clutter, manage fall cleaning and prepare for Christmas all at once.

How will you bring the current state of domestic chaos into holiday readiness: clean, organized, prepared? You need a holiday organizing plan!

This Sunday, it's time to kick off the House & Holidays Plan at sister site Organized Christmas!

Is a week-by-week Christmas organizing plan right for you and your household? Unlike the shorter Christmas Countdown, the House & Holidays Plan combines a whole-house deep-clean with holiday preparations.

Working week by week, we'll deep-clean and declutter at home, while we prepare for the holiday season in small, sustainable bites.

Along the way, we'll create a personalized Christmas planner to simplify the holidays--and get together in online communities that provide motivation, inspiration and fun.

The fun starts Sunday, August 30. Ready to prepare house and home for the holiday season? Get the plan!

Ready for Christmas with a Holiday Plan


Magic Minimum: Cleaning Secret of Organized Families

Is there time to clean house? Not for today's busy families!

Between work, children's activities, and vacation plans, even the most leisurely days don't seem long enough to get everything done at home.

There's a solution for busy times! Just as your body needs a "minimum daily allowance" of vitamins and minerals, an organized home needs a minimum of maintenance and attention to keep running smoothly.


Print An Activity Binder for Stress-Free Family Vacations

Posted by Cynthia Ewer on August 18, 2015

Here at OrganizedHome.Com, we love 3-ring binders. That's why we adore this travel tip for families with children: use free printables to create a kid's activity binder before traveling.

Use these links to print free coloring pages, word games, puzzles and activity sheets.

Assemble a binder for each child, and add a zipper bag containing crayons, markers, pencils and game tokens to keep the kids amused for hours of peaceful drive time.

Find free printables for kids at these Web sites:

Spoonful Printables Games, Stories and Coloring Pages Coloring Pages


Back-to-School Countdown Day 14: Get Organized for Homeschool

Back-to-School Countdown Day 14

Posted by Cynthia Ewer on August 16, 2015

In my years as worker, mother and home manager, I have experienced a full range of life’s little organizational challenges. I have run a business from a home shared with two tiny children and moved cross-country (and back). I've merged two cluttered households into one small city apartment, and lived for many happy years with a card-carrying packrat husband.

The challenge of home schooling a child beat them all hands-down, organizationally speaking.

How do I count the clutter? The books. The papers. The biology experiments on the kitchen window. The adult-sized child sprawled on the floor, reading. The record-keeping. College admissions and testing and letters from the correspondence school.

Homeschool families, like Tolstoy's happy ones, are all alike: drowning in a sea of clutter!

Whatever the organization arena--time, space, money, computer access—-homeschool families have it worse. They have more stuff, less time, more distractions, less money, more chores and less space than just about anybody else.

How do you get organized for homeschool?

Don't despair, homeschoolers! Here at OrganizedHome.Com, we've assembled the best tips, ideas, resources and links to get your new school year off to an organized start.

You don't homeschool? Hang around anyway!

The principles used to organize full-time home schooling families also work for every other family where you find children and learning and love.

Ready? Get organized for homeschool, because home's cool!

Back-to-School Countdown Day 13: Teaching Kids The Planner Habit

Teachers, parents and homeschool families know that training kids to the planner habit makes for successful students.

School districts throughout the USA issue planners to pupils and integrate planner use into the school day. Homeschool families use planners to track and organize lessons, chores and activities, while tech-savvy teens rely on smartphone calendar and to-do apps to organize their work.

A student planner is only a tool. How do you teach a child to use one? Try these tips to teach kids the planner habit.


Back-to-School Countdown Day 12: Tips to Help With Homework

The start of a new school year means fresh supplies and new outfits ... and their less-welcome cousin, homework. How will you handle daily homework sessions in your organized home?

To stave off homework battles, it pays to make a plan. Creating a homework routine undercuts foot-dragging, while setting up a homework station keeps distractions to a minimum. Having a plan for homework accountability encourages student responsibility--and sees to it that homework gets done on time.

Ready to plan for homework? Try these tips to get it done swiftly, done right during the coming school year.


Back-to-School Countdown Day 11: Win the Wardrobe Wars

What to wear? For many families, this simple question is a daily flash-point for conflict on school mornings.

A budding fashionista throws a tantrum if a given outfit doesn't meet her standards, while another child insists on wearing one favorite shirt day after day--laundered or not. Younger children resist getting dressed at all, delaying the whole family's departure--and everyone's mood descends to the basement before the day has even begun.

Win the wardrobe wars! Try these ideas to get 'em up, dressed and off to school on time.


Back-to-School Countdown Day 10: Gear Up for School Lunches

Will you add "pack school lunches" to your to-do list when school starts? Time to get organized!

School-day mornings veer to frazzled in a heartbeat, and never more so than when trying to pack lunches while locating laundry, overseeing homework and calling children to breakfast.

Give yourself a break, and take time now to prepare for the school lunch routine. With nine months of lunch duty ahead, planning school lunch menus will make it easy to pack the sacks each day!

  Read More >>Printables:  seasonal_back_to_school_lunch_planner.pdf

Back-to-School Countdown Day 9: Create A Family Command Center

Each day in your household, the questions fly. What time is soccer practice? Do we need to buy milk? Is the family free to attend a barbecue this weekend?

Even in an age of smartphones, each household needs a one-stop location to find the answers: a family command center.

Information central for busy families, a family command center cuts school-day stress by creating a single location to find calendars, information and messages needed by the family each day.

Today in the Back-to-School Countdown, we'll set up--or spiff up!--a family command center to keep life running smoothly.


Tame Morning Madness with a Family Launch Pad

Morning Madness! Only the pre-dinner "Arsenic Hour" comes close in the "Calgon, take me away!" category.

Bathroom fights, soggy cereal, and the ever-present, "Mommy! I can't find my . . . !"

Getting the family out the door in the morning can make any parent want to pull the bedclothes up and hide.

One small concept can go a long way to taming the morning beast: the family Launch Pad. Just as a spaceship must have a dedicated structure to support liftoff, so family members need a Launch Pad to stabilize them as they blast out the door.


Back-to-School Countdown Day 8: Set Up A Family Launch Pad

It's not just our family that exits the door each morning during the school, it's our stuff! Can you find what you need to get the children off to school on time each day?

Briefcases and backpacks, library books and lunch sacks travel with us in and out of the house each day. Arriving home, these possessions scatter to the winds; in the morning, precious time is wasted rounding them up for another day's use.

If you're playing too many games of "Where's the permission slip?", it's time to consider taming the chaos with a family launch pad.


Back-to-School Countdown Day 7: Crafting School-Day Routines

Kindergarten teachers know a powerful organizing principle: reliable routines are the secret to a successful school day.

Well-crafted classroom routines give pupils a sense of security--and ensure that the day moves smoothly through each planned activity.

Put that organizing secret to work in your organized home!

Today in the Back-to-School Countdown, it's time to craft morning, after-school and evening routines for the school year.


8 Great Tips To Organize Kids' Rooms

It's the battle cry of millions of parents: "Clean your room!" Will it ring out in your house today?

Seasonal events like birthdays, the holidays or a new school year bring fresh motivation to the drive to get kids organized--and nowhere is the battleground more intense than in the children's bedrooms.

How do you help your child organize and clean up life in the bedroom?

Try these eight easy organization strategies to calm clutter and bring order to kids' rooms.